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COC Members Reach Out with Books Despite COVID Snags

1 January 2022 No Comment

Michael Mitchell

The 2021 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) was held virtually April 29 – May 21, with ASA members serving as volunteer judges for the projects.

Involvement in ISEF has been an outreach project of the ASA Council of Chapters since 1987. The council appoints an ASA-ISEF liaison, and the ASA provides a modest budget that includes travel expenses for one chapter member to travel to the fair.

The primary outreach activity is the official judging for the Special Awards in Statistics; however, there are three additional areas with opportunities for outreach: statistical presentations at ISEF prior to the judging, delivering CHANCE and Significance magazines during the first round of screening, and presenting statistics books to selected students based on their use of statistics in their projects.

Madalina Griza

The statistical presentations offered by the judges are attended by approximately 100 people. No statistics symposium was included in the virtual ISEF 2021.

When ISEF 2020 was canceled and ISEF 2021 became a virtual event, volunteers created a Google doc to use as a landing page for students to access both CHANCE and Significance magazines online. Included were links to articles selected for their timeliness regarding statistical evaluation of pandemic-related data and illustration of the wide range of applications for statistics.

The third opportunity for increasing outreach is the presentation of statistics books to selected students. Distributing these books follows a tradition established by Susan Ellenberg in the initial years that led to the formal establishment of the ASA Special Awards in Statistics in 1987.

Aranyo Roy

With all the judging and interaction with students virtual this year, the real challenge was how to offer 100 students their choice of a book when the students were located around the world and the books were in an office in Southern California.

The statistics judges were creative and flexible. One judge produced a brochure with descriptions of each of the 16 books, and another judge designed a Google form that facilitated the students selecting their top three book choices. Many other statistics judges posted messages for the students at their virtual ISEF project booths to let them know they had been selected to receive a statistics book and would be receiving an email from the ISEF staff with information for selecting their book.

More than 20 students responded within two hours of receiving the email. The three most popular books ‘sold out’ the first day. These books were Discovering Knowledge in Data: An Introduction to Data Mining by Daniel Larose; Introductory Statistics: Exploring the World Through Data by Rob Gould, Rebecca Wong, and Colleen Ryan; and Elementary Introduction to Statistical Learning Theory by Sanjeev Kulkarni and Gilbert Harman.

The Google form had a place for students to leave comments. Three overseas students sent selfies showing the book they received along with the following comments:

  • Michael Mitchell: “Your support has contributed to furthering my interest in pursuing science and technology to the highest levels. I am currently a freshman at Rice University in Houston, Texas pursuing a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a focus in bioengineering. I also received admission into Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, and the California Institute of Technology.”
  • Aranyo Roy: “Thank you for the recognition and the book! I’ll be starting at Yale University this fall as a prospective Psychology major; so this book will be immensely helpful!”
  • Madalina Griza: “Thank you very much for the book!”

The next challenge for the statistics judges was to package and mail more than 100 books to addresses across the US and overseas. But no problem! In late June, several fully vaccinated judges met to prepare the books for shipping. They included personalized labels that acknowledged the book donors and listed the web links for the ASA chapters. The books were then put in bubble wrap shipping bags, weighed, and labeled with the USPS bar-coded shipping label.

These books represent a tangible and meaningful gift from our profession to budding scientists. In time, some of these young scientists may join the ASA and be future leaders in the field of statistics.

For more information about this year’s ISEF event, read “ASA Members Honor Three with Special Awards in Statistics.”

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